6 Genealogy Myths You NEED To Stop Believing 

27 May 2022

With so many people passionate about finding out more about their ancestry, it’s no surprise that opinions within the field of genealogy are often shared around as fact. For this reason, it’s often important to take what you hear with a grain of salt and continue to explore every avenue, regardless of what you hear from others – otherwise, you might be restricting your own research!  So, let us discuss 6 genealogy myths that you should stop believing! 


There’s no such thing as a free lunch in genealogy 

In genealogy, lunch sometimes does in fact come free. Many people believe that you need to be a member of a paid genealogy database to do significant research – however, there is a wealth of sites that can be utilised – completely free of charge – to further your genealogy research! Some examples of said websites are: 

  • FamilySearch: The biggest free genealogy database, FamilySearch contains a plethora of information regarding births, deaths, and marriages – vital information for fundamental research in genealogy. They also have census information, probate records, and other highly useful information! 
  • The National Archives: While not completely free, The National Archive does offer a wealth of information free of charge, so you may as well make the most of it! 
  • The Digital Panopticon: A free source for information on London convicts in Britain and Australia, with information spanning from 1780 to 1925. 
  • BillionGraves: A great resource for finding gravestone images and transcriptions of your ancestor’s graves, with millions of cemeteries digitised for free! 

As you can see, there are plenty of ways to progress your family research for free, you just need to look in the right places! 


You can’t always trust what you see on the Internet, especially other people’s family trees! 

If you happen to stumble upon a “relations” family tree on sites such as Ancestry, always take them with a pinch of salt. Oftentimes, these trees haven’t been fact-checked, and so shouldn’t be taken as gospel – always do your own research! 

Of course, it’s not harmful to take note of this family tree, as it could prove useful further down the line – just ensure that should you go ahead with adding this information to your family tree that it has been thoroughly fact-checked – you don’t want to muddy up your own research! 

Your ancestor’s names may have been changed at Ellis Island 

Serving as an immigrant processing station between 1892 and 1954 – it’s highly likely that if one of your ancestors moved to America during this time, they would have stepped foot on the island. For this reason, it’s important to be aware of the common misconception that, while on the island, the migrant’s name was changed.  

This was not the case – however, in some scenarios, migrants would go on to change their names when they settled in their new home country. Also, note; just like any other legal documentation where a registrar has taken down a name, the person’s forename/surname may be recorded incorrectly. 


I found my family’s coat of arms online! 

Never be fooled into believing that a coat of arms is associated with a surname (e.g., because you have the same surname, the coat of arms is useable by you). If you do falsely use a coat of arms, you are liable to legal action, starting with a £100 per day fine, all the way up to prison time – depending on the offence!

Therefore, it is best not to trust websites that claim that your surname bears a certain coat of arms (oftentimes, these websites will show a coat of arms with the surname featuring as part of the coat). 


You can trace all your family history online now! 

Whilst this would be extremely convenient for the everyday genealogist, unfortunately, it is not the case. Due to time restrictions, many, many historical files are yet to be digitised, meaning that, especially if you are looking for more niche information, you might have to travel to an in-person archive to attain what you need. 

For this reason, if you are serious about tracing your family history – particularly when hoping to go as far back as possible, you should expect an adventure or two in the name of genealogy! 


Sourcing where you attained your information is only for professional genealogists 

Most people think citation of sources is reserved mostly for when professionals use information for commercial use. It can, however, prove very useful when constructing your family tree – it will supply a reference point for your findings, giving you the ability to validate your discovery. 

Not only that, but you never know – with further research, that same source that helped you earlier in your studies could prove useful again for discovering more ancestors! 


Final Thoughts 

We hope you’ve found this blog insightful! There are plenty of myths out there concerning genealogy, and it’s important to know what they are so you can avoid them whenever possible – your research will be much more fruitful if you’re not getting stuck in the middle of any false assumptions!  


For more helpful advice with your family history tracing adventures, why not read our other blog? 

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